• This course addresses those universal questions that define humanity. As we answer such questions or, at least, attempt to answer them, we start to define ourselves. As your instructor, I will begin by defining those questions as these:

    Who are we?

    Where do we come from? (Or, where have we been?)

    Where are we going?

    People have sought to answer these questions in the past, through the arts, through speech, through writing, and through music, to name just a few popular modes of expression. Perhaps no class in high school requires more soul-searching participation by students than a humanities course.

    As the semester progresses, I'll post information relevant to our class below.



  • In addition to formal essays, reflective journal responses will be an important part of the writing that you do for this course. As the semester progresses, I'll post our journal topics on this page. For each of the following journal topics, compose one to two pages of thoughtful writing. 

    For these journaling topics, write thoughtfully. Be creative, demonstrate the best writing skills that you have learned, and put forth your best effort. You may word-process or hand-write your work. From time to time as the course progresses, I will collect your journaling folder in order to assess the work you are doing. Often, the topics for these journal assignments will evolve from hypotheses and evaluative questions that are integral to our in-class discussions of the literature and art we are studying.


    1. Which of the arts or disciplines that comprise the Humanities or liberal arts is most appealing to you? Which of the Humanities do you find most appealing (through practice or through appreciation) and why?


    2. Write your response to Caspar David Friedrich's "The Life Stages" (ca. 1835). Consider the levels we discussed in class (the sensory level, the artistic or formal level, and the associative level) as you develop your discussion. You could explore the painting's allegorical possibilities, as well. The image is available online at and elsewhere.


    3. For a journal response to a work of music, we listened to "God Only Knows" (1966) by the band, The Beach Boys, in class. As we did with the previouse journaling assignment, consider the levels we discussed in class (the sensory level, the artistic or formal level, and the associative level) as you develop your discussion. 


    4. Interpret and discuss James Baldwin's quotation, "The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers."


    5. Please read and respond to the poem "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins (available here: Here are some questions you may want to consider in writing your response:

    i. Does the message of this poem only apply to poetry?
    ii. What do we gain or lose in the process of literary analysis?
    iii. What is the relationship between analyzing a work of art and appreciating it? Does one enhance or detract from the other?


    6. Consider the possible meanings of the following two quotations:

    I. “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” - British author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    II. “Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” - British author and philosopher Alan Watts (1915-1973)

    In the first part of your journal response, explore these statements and what you think they could mean. Questions that could be helpful to consider:

    • What does it mean to make oneself a beast?
    • What is the pain of being a man?
    • What does it mean that stars cannot be “right” or “wrong”?
    • What does this quote imply about the natural world?

    In the second part of your journal response, try to connect these quotes and your thoughts to the novel Frankenstein. In this story, we have explored questions about what qualities make a creature a human as opposed to a beast. Additionally, Mary Shelley and her characters in the text place great emphasis on nature. Does the portrayal of nature in Frankenstein align with this sentiment regarding nature?

    Upload Journal Response #6 to


    7. Contemporary Autobiographical Sketch. This is the first journal prompt we have had since school closed. What is on your mind? What has life been like for you in the last four weeks? What successes have you experienced and what challenges have you faced? Has any art, music, film, or other form of expression proved meaningful to you in these recent weeks? You might be able to make connections in this writing to major topics or themes we began to address in our Humanities class earlier this semester; but, it is not necessary that you make any such connection in your writing. What brings you peace, happiness, and balance these days? Try to write a page to two pages. Suggested due date: upload your writing to on or before Monday, April 27th


     8. See the document (Journal Entry #8 for Acts I and II of Shakespeare's The Tempest) under Related Files below.



Related Files